“I hope you hair curls naturally, does it?” Cecily Cardew asks Algernon Moncrieff in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of being Earnest.”
“Yes, darling,” he replies, “with a little help from others.”
When it comes to our tresses, our French twists, bobs, Afros, beachy waves and buzz cuts, we could all use a little help from a skilled stylist. In Manhattan, where the aesthetic stakes are high and the opportunities for blunder are seemingly infinite, it pays to pay.
But how much should you spend in a town where the sky is the limit? Should you spend $600 on a single haircut (like Hillary Clinton) or $11,000 a month (like French President Francois Hollande)? Can you even spend too much on your hair?
“Definitely not,” said celebrity stylist Ted Gibson.
Gibson is the self-proclaimed purveyor of the “most expensive haircut in New York City,” and his $1,500 fee gets you an hour and 15 minutes of very personal attention — the same hands-on care that he gives to clients like Anne Hathaway, Debra Messing, Angelina Jolie, Lupita Nyong’o, Mila Kunis and the Jenner sisters, to name a few.
“If you ask a woman of a certain age to look at a picture of herself, the first thing she talks about is her hair,” Gibson said. “That’s because hair dictates certain moments of your life. So no, there is no limit to how much you should spend on your hair.”
Still, our individual limits on what is reasonable to spend vary a great deal, as do the kinds of service required.
For example, the trend for years now in men’s grooming has been toward high maintenance and therefore higher costs. Nevertheless, the price gap between sculpting a man’s mane versus a woman’s tendrils remains stark. It seems that most men just aren’t willing to shell out royally for their hair — and that women have become more accustomed to steep prices.
“There is no limit to how much you
should spend on your hair.”
These days, men’s salons are offering extensive grooming services and club-style memberships. Barbershops that once offered cuts and shaves are restyled as salons pour hommes and now push everything from pedicures and waxing to facials and shoe shines, driving up bills.
“Every service that you used to get at a women’s place, we do it here,” said Martial Vivot, the owner of the eponymous men’s salon next to the Museum of Modern Art and the University Club. His salon is one of the most expensive men’s-only establishments in the city and offers a host of treatments that have typically been reserved for women, or men who felt comfortable in a women’s salon. But in his modern, laid-back and slightly irreverent shop (artwork made from Barbie dolls by Valerie Carmet adorns the walls), Vivot has been able to normalize services like bronzing for men by coupling it with a shave.
“In a place like New York City, where people go out a lot, you want to look your best,” Vivot said. “We service magazine photo shoots, and a photo shoot is not only hair, it is makeup. We call that service the ‘greenroom,’ because you don’t want to call it makeup, that would be awkward for some men.”
Still, no matter how good the stylist, no matter the additional grooming services, can a haircut really be worth hundreds of dollars or even $1,000? Scissors come cheap(ish). Barbers of yore cut hair for peanuts. Heads haven’t changed, and for the most part, today’s styles aren’t especially complex. So what are you really paying for with a luxury cut?
For Gibson, the answer is simple: A visit to a salon is a form of therapy. He compares his salon work to his time on the TV show “What Not to Wear.”
“No matter who the woman was,” Gibson said, “all they wanted was for someone to tell them that they were beautiful. They wanted someone to hear them when they were talking. Nine times out of 10, her husband was not touching her, her kids weren’t giving her a hug, she’s wasn’t listened to. I listen to what she has to say.”
“People don’t realize the importance of the hairdresser,” he added. “Besides a doctor, we are one of the few people licensed to touch.”
Whether you’re looking for runway perfection or Downtown cool, LLNYC rounded up some of the top hairstylists for men and women in Manhattan for your perusal. Pay them for a cut, and they might also listen to your problems.
Salon: Ted Gibson
Location: 184 Fifth Avenue, Second Floor
Price of a haircut: $1,500
Who to see: Ted Gibson
Description: Wood floors, black stations, tall mirrors. The magazine covers in the waiting area were probably styled by Gibson himself. Gibson’s motto is “beauty is individual.”
Clients: Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Debra Messing, Angelina Jolie, Ashley Greene, Lupita Nyong’o, Gabrielle Union, the Jenner sisters and Mila Kunis.
Specialty: Bespoke cuts to flatter an individual’s face and style. It’s a conversation.
Salon: Martial Vivot Salon Pour Hommes
Location: 39 West 54th Street
Price of a haircut: $320
Who to see: Martial Vivot
Description: A luxurious and private salon with bold colors, even bolder art, good whisky and a quirky vibe (the 2004 film “Napoleon Dynamite” was playing behind the front desk on a recent visit). Vivot offers all the services of a woman’s salon, including greenroom-style makeup application, reimagined for men.
Clients: Celebrities (Zac Efron), chefs (Daniel Boulud), athletes (Joakim Noah) and the anonymous rich as well as aspiring (a cashier at Whole Foods).
Specialty: Santa Maria Novella Shave ($95). A relaxing, straight-razor shave and hot towel treatment using luxury products from the famed Santa Maria Novella Apothecary.
Salon: Fleischman Salon
Locations: 140 East 52nd Street, Suite 2F and 162 West 56th Street, Suite 504
Price of a haircut: $75–$140
Who to see: Erica Fleischman
Description: A men’s salon run by women. After all, “as women, we know how to make men look good,” the salon’s website boasts. Haircuts are broken down into three steps: a consultation, aka “a game plan,” a shampoo and scalp massage, and haircut/styling. Low-key masculine atmosphere with booze at the ready.
Clients: Midtown businessmen.
Specialty: “I can do a perfect manicure on myself and others,” Fleischman said. “Better than any manicurist in the city.”
Salon: John Allan’s
Locations: 611 Fifth Avenue, 46 East 46th Street, 418 Washington Street, 95 Trinity Place
Price of a haircut: $75
Who to see: Lots of stylists to choose from across the locations. Just join the club and start making friends.
Description: The clubbiest of barbershops, with a pool table, lounge, reading material, bar and storage for your own private stock. Membership ($950) gets unlimited service.
Clients: Neighborhood-centric clientele looking for a clubby atmosphere (finance guys on Wall Street, metrosexuals in Tribeca, etc.)
Specialty: Get John Allan’s Signature Full Service with a scalp-massaging shampoo, conditioning treatment, hot towel, haircut, manicure, shoeshine and booze.
Salon: Truman’s Gentlemen’s Groomers
Location: 120 East 56th Street, 121 Madison Avenue
Price of a haircut: $75
Who to see: Joe Marchesi or John Esposito Jr.
Description: Created by three men “who grew tired of going to female-centric salons in search of a worthy haircut.” Truman’s offers classic services like shaves, shoeshines and massages, all provided sans attitude in a wood-paneled escape.
Clients: Middle-aged men who want “handshake maintenance” and “foot repair,” their terms for mani-pedis.
Specialty: Full spa treatments. You name it, they’ve got it. Sign up for the Mogul membership package ($5,000) for unlimited professional and spa services.
Salon: Freemans Sporting Club Barber
Location: 8 Rivington Street
Price of a haircut: $42
Who to see: Joey Tasca, Ruben Aronov or Miles Elliot
Description: The shop began life as a speakeasy-style barbershop hidden along Freeman Alley on the Lower East Side. Today, the shop occupies its own space just next door, but it stills serves up the same chilled-out Lower East Side vibe.
Clients: Skews younger, cooler. Man buns welcome.
Specialty: Solid barbershop banter
Salon: Sally Hershberger Salon
Locations: 25 West 26th Street and 17 East 71st Street, Fifth Floor
Price of a haircut: $1,000
Who to see: Sally Hershberger
Description: Hershberger insists her salons are where the trends start, and her A-list clientele is the pudding’s proof. Zen atmosphere with modern décor.
Clients: Kate Moss, Julia Roberts and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Specialty: While you’re there, you might as well try Hershberger’s luxury 24K line of products made with “pure gold elixir and natural plant extracts.”
Salon: Serge Normant at John Frieda Salon
Location: 336 West 23rd Street and 30 East 76th Street
Price of a haircut:$600
Who to see:Serge Normant
Description:A comfortable townhouse-style setting that will make you feel like you are in your own home — if your home comes with Tiffany chandeliers, 13-foot ceilings and multiple fireplaces, as the Chelsea location does. The Meatpacking District location is a decked-out industrial space appointed with luxurious accents like pony-skin ottomans and a koi pond. Come for the “Sex and the City” look.
Clients:Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Gisele Bundchen, Julianne Moore, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Linda Evangelista.
Specialty:Custom-styling products designed to create “heart-stopping glamour.” Sally Hershberger is an investor.
Salon: Marie Robinson Salon
Locations:40 West 25th Street, 10th Floor
Price of a haircut:$250
Who to see:Marie Robinson
Description:A 26-chair, cube-shaped beauty bar high in the iconic Flatiron Building, with exposed beams, white walls and dark hardwood floors. Robinson made waves when she left Sally Hershberger to start her own salon. “She works swiftly, calling out color-swatch names to her assistant like a mad scientist,” according to New York Magazine.
Clients: Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone, Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman and
Specialty:Coloring. Robinson uses a balayage technique to create natural-looking sun-kissed highlights ($500).
Salon: Takamichi Hair
Location: 263 Bowery, Second Floor
Price of a haircut: $250
Who to see: Takamichi Saeki
Description: A gallery-style white-box oasis overlooking the trendy intersection of Soho and the Lower East Side.
Clients: Downtown creatives. Derek Lam, Molly Ringwald, Annie Lennox, Santi Moix and Jenna Lyons.
Specialty: The Takamichi cut, a precise haircut that is tailored to a client’s hair texture, head shape and lifestyle.